Cheap eats at Koreana

Put me next to a pig foot and I turn into a total nut case. But boy, these chunkies, sweet, salty, chewy, just a little spicy… I cleaned the bones until they were white. A feeble attempt at including some starch to our lunch: ground beef and pork coins covered in batter and fried. Dessert: ho tteok (호떡) – chewy sweet pancake with some kind of syrup or melted brown sugar filling, and the best part? They’re not too sweet!

Korean chilled noodle soup with a few Vietnamese twists

Sometimes my craziness surprises myself. I woke up one morning, reflecting that the week’s been warm, and decided to make mul naengmyeon (물 냉면). Weeks earlier, I bought the buckwheat noodles but never had the time to cook, or the mood. Now I still don’t have time to cook, but today is the day. I remember the main ingredients of a true Korean naengmyeon, but just to make sure that I don’t have them, I look at Maangchi’s recipe anyway. Beef bones? No. Mushroom? No. Dried anchovies? No. Kelp? No. Yeolmu kimchi juice? Hah. In my dreams. I don’t even have cucumber. Am I going to the store? Of course not. The wind might blow away my cooking mood, which is already rare as it is. Besides, I have a blind confidence that what I do have will make a fine bowl. The deaf ain’t scared by gun fires, they (we Vietnamese) say. Naengmyeon has three fundamental components: the broth, the buckwheat noodle, and the toppings. The broth needs to be clear and slender. To get the sweetness, I substitute beef bones by pig trotters. They have plenty of bones, and unfortunately […]

Continue reading Korean chilled noodle soup with a few Vietnamese twists

Casserole House – Jeongol in Oakland

If you’ve had Vietnamese hot pot and liked it, you’d like the Korean hot pot better. If you haven’t had Vietnamese hot pot, try it, and then try jeongol (전골 Korean hot pot), and then you’d like jeongol better. There goes my motherland loyalty, but Vietnam has bánh cuốn and gỏi cuốn, so I’m not too worried. Lots of beef, lots of mushroom, green onion, bean sprout, tofu, cucumber, cabbage all snuggling in a pasty sunny broth. The pot is more like a deep tray on a gas stove, and the bubbling conglomeration is like a spoiled teenager threatening to run away from home. The bulgogi junggol comes to us wild and daring. We ladle right in. Casserole House has these big bright pictures on the wall of beef, spam, vegetables, and seafood neatly arranged in a round dish or bobbing in broth. The real stuff in action also hides some tteokbokki (떡) for chew and dangmyeon (당면) for engtanglement with the enokitake that just wait to drip the broth between the plates or fling a fortunate dot onto your shirt. I don’t know why they would call jeongol […]

Continue reading Casserole House – Jeongol in Oakland

The texturous wonder of stewed pig feet

Today has been good to me, and despite the common attitude of Americans toward anything but “common meats,” I think it’s time to talk about one of the most tasteworthy albeit shunned part of a pig. They package and sell it at the Super Walmart in Humble, they’ve been eating it with banh canh (a Southwestern Vietnamese udon-like rice noodle soup) probably since the Southwestern delta became part of Vietnam. (And no, it is not because meat was rare that they had to eat everything, the Southwestern delta region is the most prosperous piece of land of the country.) It takes some work to cook, a strong hand to rub salt and wash, many hours of stewing on a stove, but the result never fails your satisfaction. Yes, it’s the foot of a pig. It looks chubby, but if it’s cooked well, it takes almost no effort to rip the edible part off the bone, and even less to chew. It is a layer of thick skin with tendon and very little fat, extremely tender, but not too tender to lose the firm texture. It’s good because it’s firm and tender. It’s not dry and fibrous […]

Continue reading The texturous wonder of stewed pig feet